Great Smoky Mountains, Parks

The single most underrated way to step out of your comfort zone while on vacation

When it comes to travel, almost everyone likes the idea of stepping out of their comfort zones. The mere act of leaving our normal routines, friends, homes and entering new environments has a beautiful way of shaking up our perspectives on ourselves, our lives, and the world.

Many of the best, most transformative travel experiences are direct products of the unfamiliar and unexpected: doing things we wouldn’t normally do, meeting people we wouldn’t ordinarily meet, and learning new perspectives that make us better versions of ourselves.

However, for most travelers, the actual process of stepping out of our comfort zones can be uncomfortable, or daunting or downright scary — step too far and we risk remembering a vacation for all the wrong reasons. As a result, we tend to revert back to the safest, most predictable plans, taking solace in knowing exactly what we’ll get.

This is why I’m an advocate of single decisions that make the process of stepping a little bit outside your comfort zone on your next vacation easy, automatic, and even fun! From years working with the most innovative vacation rental hosts in the world on the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog, my favorite single decision lies in the kind of accommodations in which you stay: instead of booking a traditional hotel, choosing the right vacation rental property opens many doors and facilitates all kinds of meaningful experiences.

Embedding one’s self in a residential neighborhood away from groups of tourists means meeting local culture in an entirely new way. And in this environment, we’re more likely to encounter delightful surprises and explore more of the unknown. No matter where you’re heading for your next vacation, choosing the right vacation rental can be that single choice that makes all the difference.

Here are four ways in which choosing the right vacation rental can make your next trip almost by default more adventuresome, interesting, and memorable.

1. Automatic Local Friends

Since most vacation rental operators live in the area and love it, they make for the ideal destination ambassadors and therefore the perfect local: friends. The best vacation rental hosts are able to recommend their favorite haunts, introduce guests to the right guides or contacts, and even let visitors in on insider secrets. One of my favorite anti-comfort zone moves is to invite your vacation rental host out for lunch to their favorite restaurant.: Use this chance to pick their brains, to help you organize your itinerary, or merely to get a lay of the land. Very few hotel concierges are able to offer this level of personal attention due to the size of the business — a vacation rental host is that all-too-valuable connector you can’t do without.

2. The Excuse to Be Curious

Staying in a vacation rental as opposed to a traditional hotel means everything is less formulaic and that is the best way to digest local culture. Instead of relying on room service or overpriced hotel taxis, I like to encourage travelers to wander out and use the excuse of being a new neighbor to ask questions! Where’s a great place for a lazy afternoon lunch? What’s the best way to get downtown? What’s it like to live here? Preface any of these questions with the fact that you’re only playing neighbor for the week and you’re bound to get a warm reception and sense of place.

3. The Fun of Dining In

Eating out on vacation every day can get expensive, if not downright exhausting. A vacation rental’s kitchen is the ideal alternative and amenity that breaks down comfort zone barriers because it encourages local grocery shopping excursions and the improvisation of putting together a meal of your own. If you’re looking for inspiration, try to replicate a popular local dish or seasonal specialty… experiment with something you’ve never made before. If you’re feeling fancy, ask your host about a private chef. And if you’re feeling lazy, order delivery and enjoy lounging around the ultimate comfort zone — the living room.

4. The Permission to Get Lost

At home when we’re in our typical routines, getting lost is frowned upon: it makes us late for work, embarrassed before friends, and disappointed in ourselves. But when traveling, getting lost is a virtue — a plus that leads to some of the best vacation memories. By choosing a professional vacation rental instead of a traditional hotel, we remove the compass and maps of structured tourism and embrace the idea of not knowing exactly where we are or where we are going. This is not an endorsement to put anyone’s life in danger — it is permission to enjoy the journey and not just the destination. It is a good reminder to relish the beauty of travel at its core, which is the consent to relinquish a bit of control and find your own way.

By

Amusement, Entertainment, Food, Pigeon Forge, Show

Dolly Parton’s Pirate Dinner Theater

Pirate battles, live animals, custom-designed costumes, and more.  Arrive 50 minutes before the show for the chance to explore Pirates Village, where your kids (and you too!) can dress up like pirates and mermaids and enjoy pirate-themed beverages and snacks.  adjacent to The Island in Pigeon Forge and includes a 30,000 square-foot arena that seats nearly 700 guests. During the show, guests will get to see the Crimson and Sapphire pirates battle on deck, in the water, and in the sky above their full-sized pirate ships in a 15-foot-deep indoor lagoon.  Enjoy a four-course pirate feast at the show! The menu will include the Walk the Plank Peach Turnover, creamy vegetable soup and fried chicken.

Pirate

https://piratesvoyage.com/pigeon-forge/

Gatlinburg, Shopping

5 of the Best Places to Go Shopping in Gatlinburg

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From Smoky Mountain apparel to beautiful, handmade pieces, the Gatlinburg shopping scene has so many things for you to discover. Whether you’re looking for the perfect souvenir or a gift for a loved one, you’re sure to find just what you set out for here. To help you plan for your trip, here are 5 of the best places to go shopping in Gatlinburg.

 

  1. The Spice & Tea Exchange

The Spice & Tea Exchange is located in The Village Shoppes in Gatlinburg. You’ll absolutely love the Old World spice trading atmosphere when you walk through the door. This specialty store offers more than 140 spices, over 80 exclusive hand-mixed blends, 16 naturally flavored sugars, an array of salts from around the world, and more than 30 exotic teas. Their main focus is to provide high-quality products and accessories to chefs, home cooks, and tea lovers. You’ll be so excited to take these products home and try them out when you’re cooking!

 

  1. Pepper Palace

Another great stop in The Village Shops in Gatlinburg is the Pepper Palace! This store encourages a fun and fiery environment that you’ll immediately notice when you step through the front door. Inside, you can browse through all of their famous hot sauces, salsas, seasonings, and rubs. Their small batch, handcrafted, natural, and award-winning products are just what you need to add a little charisma to your everyday meals that might be starting to taste a little bland.

 

  1. Novus Candela Bath & Crafts

Who doesn’t love a beautiful candle to add a warm glow to their home? The scented soy candles at Novus Candela Bath & Crafts are absolutely wonderful and are sure to make any room you put them in seem cozier. In addition to their lovely, handmade candles, you can also find goat’s milk soaps and essential oils there. They also carry a large selection of gorgeous handmade quilts, jewelry, paintings, and scenic pictures.

 

  1. The Celtic Shop

If you’re planning on spending the afternoon on the Gatlinburg Parkway, you should definitely make a stop at The Celtic Shop! It features a wide selection of genuine Celtic pieces that were hand selected by the staff during their previous visits to Ireland and Scotland. From apparel and jewelry to posters and other fun knick-knacks, there are so many items for you to look at that will remind you of your trip to the Smokies and your heritage!

 

  1. Brandywine Pottery

The pieces from Brandywine Pottery make both thoughtful gifts and great additions to any room in your house! The influential artist that this shop is named after, Brandy Ward, creates functional pottery inspired by the forests of the Smoky Mountains. Each of his pieces is hand thrown and glazed with an airbrush. His technique truly makes the pottery sold in this store one-of-a-kind.
There’s always something new and unique to discover when you shop here! Come see all of these fantastic shops for yourself, and you’ll most likely walk away with some amazing new treasures! Be sure to also check out all the other places to go shopping in Gatlinburg for a truly unforgettable trip.